When was the last time your child gave you a gift? Was it Mother’s Day, your birthday or just a day that he colored you a picture and gave it to you “just because”? Did you love that gift because it was expensive, or because it was exactly what you wanted, or just because he gave it to you to show you his love? Sometimes the best gifts our children give us are “best” because of the love expressed, not because of their monetary value or intrinsic usefulness. One of the best gifts my oldest daughter ever gave me was for Mother’s Day last year. She bought a bright pink basket with a lid, and filled that basket with notes full of love and encouragement. The notes expressed her love for me and her appreciation of the sacrifices I have made in order to homeschool her. She may not know this, but I turn to that precious basket often…on days when I need to feel valued, on days that are frustrating or discouraging, and on days that I just need to know that I am loved and appreciated. It is water when my soul is thirsting and comfort when my heart is weary.
We all need praise. Marriages die for lack of praise. Children wither for lack of praise. Even our Father in heaven desires praise from His children. When was the last time you gave your children the gift of your praise? Sometimes we mothers can be so diligent about correcting our children’s faults and misbehaviors, and yet fail to offer them praise when they do something right. How many times has your child brought you a beautiful picture that they colored especially for you and instead of noticing the vibrant colors and creative drawing, you instead bemoan the marker all over their hands or new white T-shirt? Have you ever seen that little face fall as they receive your criticism instead of your sought-after praise? How about the child who “helps” you by attempting to fix breakfast or “clean” something and instead of receiving your gratitude, she receives a heartfelt sigh at the mess left in the kitchen or bathroom? Sometimes their little hearts work ahead of their abilities, leaving chaos in their wake instead of true helpfulness, yet don’t they still deserve our appreciation for their efforts?
After all, think about the messes we bring to God, longing for His approval. “But I meant well,” we say beseechingly, and He receives us lovingly, in spite of the damage we have wrought. The few paltry gifts we bring to the Ruler of the Universe pale in comparison to what He has done for us, yet He delights in us and in the gift of our praise. No matter what we have done, or haven’t done, for that matter, He welcomes us, taking us in His loving arms and giving us more than we could ever deserve. I love the picture painted in Zephaniah 3:17: “The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing." Picture a father, swinging his child up into his arms, throwing back his head in laughter as he delights in this little child of his heart. Picture a mother, rocking her child in her arms, singing softly as she soothes this child whom she adores. This is how God feels about you and me…wow. If the God of the Universe can feel this way about me, then surely I can demonstrate some of this powerful love and praise to my children, even when they’ve left a mess in the bathroom or spilled their juice for the tenth time on my freshly mopped floor. Humbling, isn’t it?
So, how about giving your children the gift of your praise today? Instead of watching their little faces fall, watch them light up in delight as your loving words soothe their hurts and fill their hearts with joy. And then sit down together and praise your Heavenly Father, who delights in both of you.
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